The Southern Miss men’s basketball team (6-16, 2-7 C-USA) fell in a tough bout to Old Dominion (9-14, 5-4 C-USA) at home for their second straight loss to a C-USA team Jan. 30.
“We have to stay together, that’s when we have to pull together the most if we want to win,” Tyler Stevenson said. “We gotta make sure that we stay gelled together, so that we can pull through and just keep moving forward.”
Stevenson had 18 total points and 10 total rebounds, keeping the team on the heels of the Monarchs in crucial moments with timely scores and take-aways.
The Golden Eagles began with a lackluster start and fell behind early in the first half when they scored only 23 points and went 33.3% within the arc. A closing dunk from Stevenson gave the team a chin-up going into the locker room despite trailing by 10.
An assisted dunk by Auston Leslie to begin the second half was the real spark that brought life to the team who went on to retake the lead midway through the second half. By this time, Southern Miss had scored more points than in their slow first-half grind.
“It was just a dogfight out there,” LaDavius Draine said. Draine, like may of the Golden Eagles, had an uneventful first half, but led the team’s second half surge with back-to-back threes following Leslie’s second half icebreaker and scoring 14 of their 22 points to the top.
Despite their impressive second half charge, the Golden Eagles fell into a dry spell. Leonard Harper Baker, who scored seven in the first half, only posted a single jumper in the paint with 37 seconds left in the game and while still trailing by 12. Gabe Watson scored nothing after only netting three points in the first half.
“It took the wind out of our sails,” Coach Jay Ladner said about Old Dominion’s timely end of the game run. “I take full responsibility. Searching for consistency, that’s something that I’ve got to figure out.”
Although his self-criticism was humble, Ladner had few other players from the bench to work with. Junior David McCoy and redshirt sophomore Jay Malone remain ineligible to play due to academic standings with the school. This lack of depth led to four players each playing for more than 36 minutes and just seven players touching the court. Watson, who spent 40 minutes on the planks, only went 2 for 10 the entire game.
“It’s tough,” Stevenson said about the suspensions of McCoy and Malone.
However, Draine showed little concern for his extensive court time saying, “We’ve been doing it all season, it’s nothing new.”
Ladner said he does not expect McCoy or Malone back this season, accepting that the team’s short-staffed roster will need to continue their hefty shifts.
“That’s what we have right now. That’s our team, and we’re going to have to make the best of it,” Ladner said. “They’re just gonna have to be ironmen.”